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This month, writer and Buddhist leader Thich Huyen Quang died at the age of 87 after spending the last 30 years of his life in prison or house arrest for campaigning for religious freedom and human rights. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) continues to call for the release of those currently detained in Vietnam for exercising their right to free expression, including two Vietnamese lawyers and cyber-dissidents who have been in jail for the past 16 months on charges of spreading propaganda against their country. Sign the RSF petition demanding their release.

Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were arrested at their homes on 6 March 2007, accused of "hostile propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" for their critical writings and dissident activities with the pro-democracy movement Bloc 8406. Their crime, among others, was signing a petition that called for democracy in their country.

In May 2007, they were sentenced to five and four years in prison respectively. In appeal, their sentences were reduced to four and three years respectively, to be followed by four and three years each of house arrest.

Nguyen Van Dai is one of the leaders of Bloc 8406 and regularly posts pro-democracy essays on websites based abroad - such as his piece on the "right to found a party in Vietnam" for the BBC. He started blogging on the RSF blog site shortly before his arrest:

Le Thi Cong Nhan is the spokesperson for the recently founded Vietnam Progression Party. She's also a member Bloc 8406.

Both had been under heavy surveillance for some time for their dissident activities. Nguyen Van Dai was reportedly subjected to criticism by a "popular court" in February 2007, in which 200 residents from Hanoi were mobilised by the authorities to insult and denounce him for being a "traitor".

Help them get out of jail, by signing the petition here:
- (English)
- (French)
(Photo: Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan stand trial for spreading propaganda against the state. VNA/VNS Photo Thong Nhat)

(23 July 2008)

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